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Oct. 8, 2002 – Well-known St. Thomas artist Jens-Peter Kemmler died Tuesday morning at Cedars Medical Center in Miami from complications associated with liver cancer. He was 63.
Kemmler moved to St. Thomas in 1967 from Michigan, where his family had emigrated from Germany when Peter was a teen-ager.
Known for his ability to work in a variety of mediums, Kemmler attained distinction two years ago at Mango Tango Gallery, where the first solo show he had done in many years attracted the biggest crowd that owner Jane Coombes said she'd ever seen for an opening. Half of the 36 works on exhibit sold on the first day.
"He never spent enough time painting," Judi Nagelberg, a close friend of Kemmler's, said Tuesday.
Coombes agreed. "I was always talking to him about doing another show. I really wanted to sell his work."
Along with being a fine artist, Kemmler also was an interior designer and a graphic artist. After high school he attended a school for design in New York City.
He became the advertising director for A.H. Riise in the '70s. In the early '80s, he helped businessman John Anderson redesign Sparky's Saloon on the Waterfront. Shortly after that, he went to work for Cardow Jewelers, where he was employed as the creative director. He remained at Cardow for almost 20 years and was at the time of his death the graphic studio manager, according to Mike Lotterman, Cardow human resources director and close friend of Kemmler's.
Peter was cherished by his many friends, who had a hard time expressing their deep sorrow when contacted Tuesday morning.
Lotterman said he always spent Christmas with Peter. "I cannot even think about the holidays without him," he said on Tuesday
Kemmler had been airlifted to the Miami medical center on Sept. 19 in serious condition. But after a few days he rallied and was stabilized, expecting to return to St. Thomas while awaiting future treatment. "He and I had talked about flying back on the plane together, " Lotterman, who had returned from a trip to Florida on Monday, said.
Another close friend, Gail Garrison, said that despite his having been taken to Florida, she was sure that Peter felt the support coming from all of his many friends on St. Thomas. "What is so beautiful is that he touched so many people. He was so talented," she said.
He loved St. Thomas and the Caribbean, Garrison said. "He loved the people, and it showed in his painting. He caught the real flavor — especially how it was."
She said Kemmler had been an important example for her. "We had him for as long as we did because Peter took care of himself … that prolonged his life."
This reporter often, over the years, met up with Kemmler walking in the afternoons at Magens Bay, where the value of a raw foods diet was often the topic of discussion.
In September, Kemmler took his first vacation in many years, to celebrate his birthday, enjoying dinner with close friend Edward C. Jones at the famous health-food Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. He had been back from that trip for only a few days when he was taken to Miami.
"I am so glad he had that trip, " Jones said on Tuesday. "It was really special for him to see the waterfalls around Ithaca. It was a long-overdue break from his routine. It was really special for me, too."
Kemmler is survived by two sisters, Margret Paaf of Sun City, Arizona, and KarinWeihs of Gladwin, Michigan; several nieces and nephews; and longtime companion Edward C. Jones. His body will be cremated.
A memorial service is being planned on St. Thomas.
For a review of Kemmler's Mango Tango exhibition including an interview with the artist, see "Kemmler's much-awaited show is a best seller".

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